Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Dalit Group Protests Against Untouchability in a Temple on Common Land

31 January, 2018 | G Jagganath | DNA

As Mahatma Gandhi's death anniversary was observed across the country with an oath against untouchability, members of the Arunthathiyar, a Scheduled Caste community in Sandaiyur village in Madurai district, were staging a fast unto death since Monday seeking removal of an untouchability wall built around a temple by the Paraiyar community, another Dalit group, to deny them access to a land used by both communities.

The dispute was over a wall built around Raja Kaliamman temple which is under the control of Paraiyar community encroaching a poromboke land. The Arunthathiyars alleged that even though the wall did not block any passage, it denies access to the common land and has become a symbol of untouchability.

When the Paraiyars people first attempted to erect a fence around the temple, it was stopped by the Madurai district administration on complaints made by us, said Palanivel belonging to Arunthathiyar community. "Despite our opposition, they constructed a wall around the temple in 2016. As our numerous petitions, the district officials went unheard, we moved the Madras High Court that directed the revenue officials in August 2017 to demolish the wall within four months. But the Court order was not executed till date," he said.

As the fast entered the second day on Tuesday, Madurai district K Veera Raghava Rao met the protesting people at their village, asking them to call off the protest to settle the issue through talks. "We have waited for all these months but no action was taken. So we decide to vacate the village and move to Thenmalaiandy hillock until the government demolishes the wall," Palanivel told DNA.

On January 23, Aruthathiyars threatened to demolish the wall on their own while the Paraiyars gathered to protect it. The district administration pacified the Aruthathiyars assuring that they would demolish the wall by January 29 but they failed to act.

K Jakkaiyan, president of Adi Tamizhar Katchi said that the Arunthathiyar people were wanted the wall to be demolished because of the discriminatory actions of the Paraiyar people. "A child and a woman belonging to Aruthathiyar were beaten up two year ago when they entered the temple. They were also charges of other discrimination against Aruthathiyar as they undertake scavenging work," he said.

Opposing the demand for the demolition of the temple wall, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi Madurai district secretary Inquilab said that wall was built around the temple for protection as well to keep the environment clean. "The case was filed in the High Court seeking demolition of the temple wall at the instigation of the caste Hindus," he alleged.

A senior official of the district administration said that they could not keep their assurance as Governor and chief minister visited the district during that time. "Since it is a sensitive issue, we have communicated seeking time till February 5," the official said, adding that they did not want to act in hurry considering the issue involves to two communities.

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